Three New Personnel to Educate, Inform, Assist, Promote Safety in County Parks
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined Thursday by Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Troy P. Schinzel, Chief of Police Services for the Erie County Sheriff's Office Scott Joslyn, Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Services Gregory Butcher and community members at Chestnut Ridge Park to introduce three new parks personnel, a supervising Park Ranger and two Park Rangers.
The rangers joined the department this summer and are already actively working in the parks. All have environmental backgrounds and qualifications that will be essential for guided park tours that explore and educate on park history, geology (fossils), biology, invasive species, fish and wildlife. Additionally, each ranger will advise the public as necessary on sound park practices and the importance of adhering to park rules, a message that will be reinforced through close cooperation with the Erie County Sheriff's Office.
"Park Rangers are another important investment in our parks, a living and breathing addition that will improve the park experience for everyone that they come in contact with. These individuals will be on hand to help park visitors find their way around, to provide programming and educational tours, and to work with law enforcement to ensure that park rules are observed and safety is maintained," Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. "I proposed establishing a Division of Park Rangers to protect the parks and provide public education in 2013 as part of my'Initiatives for a Smart Economy' and, thanks to Commissioner Schinzel's efforts and great interdepartmental cooperation, the division is a reality today."
Schinzel said, "The addition of Park Rangers to our staff will be good for visitors as well as for the parks themselves. We will be able to interact with park patrons more effectively, showcase the beauty of our park system, and more quickly identify any concerns or issues. Visitors should get accustomed to seeing these professionals in our parks and should view our Park Rangers as resources that can help them better enjoy their time here."
Beginning this month, the Rangers will begin training to become peace officers, with graduation anticipated in December. This training will empower them with limited police powers inside Erie County Park locations, and they will carry oleo capsicum ("OC") and handcuffs to assist in that capacity. A large majority of their time they will be used in direct assistance to park visitors, providing instructive programming, meeting with groups regarding proposed special events, assisting in locating and eliminating encroachments on county parklands, and working with the ECSO, state Department of Environment and Conservation and local law enforcement to address any situations that may potentially arise in park areas.
The rangers will report to Chestnut Ridge Park, but will work throughout the 10,000-acre parks system. Possible future expansion of the ranger program could include not only more rangers, but expanded tour and educational roles.
For more information on the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, visit http://www2.erie.gov/parks/.